Monday, April 29, 2013


Greetings from Baker Heritage Farms:

Sometimes the problems you run into are out of your control. For instance, this is a late update as we had an internet outage, something that was out of our control.

What is within our control, however, is the way we manage our time, and we have not been doing so good at managing our time this year. Hopefully we will be able to work on improving that over the next several months.

Due to off-farm commitments, we did not have the opportunity to do anything this past week, and we will be crunched for time over the next two months. Not a good time to be crunched for time if you want to be a farmer.

Note to all future backyard and small acreage farmers - try to plan your time so that you are able to dedicate the necessary amount to your farming operations during critical phases, including land preparation, seed planning and ordering, planting, and harvesting. Weather does not always cooperate (as we have learned over the past two years) and you need to be prepared to get out into the fields as soon as weather permits, or you can lose a whole season. Fortunately, we are still in our infant stages and are planning to be diversified enough to always have productive work to do.

Donald checked the seedlings yesterday and found that they were growing well, but still a little weak to be planted. In our case, that is good, as we still need to till the plots where they will be planted.

Debbie attended a Composting class yesterday at the Kerr Center, an extra class for her Beginning Farmer and Rancher program. Donald attended last year and Debbie said that she now has a better understanding of what he was talking about when he returned from his class. The purpose of this class is to learn approaches to building soil fertility for sustainable marketing farming, with a focus on compost, vermicompost (worms), compost tea, the soil food web, microbial innoculants, biochar, and discussions on cover crops, green manures, and organic systems.

Debbie enjoyed the class and found that it was very informative, interesting, and fun with good speakers that provided good information and gave her some good ideas for Baker Heritage Farms. She had a chance to meet others during the class and exchange information as well.

One of the areas we plan to concentrate on this year under our ReThinking Baker Heritage Farms will be to expand our composting operations with the hope of becoming more professional so that we can generate more compost material.

This week our concentration will be on preparing the brooders for the Turkeys, which are expected to arrive in about two weeks. We need to sanitize the tubs, get the warming lights reset, and prepare the tubs for their new occupants.

We will also be working on our compost as well as visiting the production fields (now that the sun is out) to see what damage has been done and what we need to do to get them in operation. We will be reviewing the seed we have on hand to see if any can still be planted (if not, we will store until they can) as well as preparing ground for some miscellaneous seed (such as our gourds and herbs).

In addition, we have to work on our ReThinking Baker Heritage Farms plan, as this will also fulfill Debbie's upcoming homework assignment.

It is "back-to-work" time at Baker Heritage Farms.

Until next time,

Blessings from Baker Heritage Farms

"You don't choose your family. They are God's gift to you, as you are to them." Desmond Tutu

Sunday, April 21, 2013


Greetings from Baker Heritage Farms:

It has been a slow week on the farm and we will most likely have several more slow weeks due to other commitments.

Last Sunday Donald was able to take one of the wheels off of the John Deere L118 and Debbie took it to the repair shop this past week. They repaired a loose valve stem and slimed the tire (we are slowly trying to get all of our equipment tires slimed - it is the best invention since ... who knows what, all we know is that it slimed tires do not lose air). We have a great lube and oil shop we have been using for many years (ever since we started coming to Oklahoma). The shop is JNB Tires in Poteau, Oklahoma, and they have treated us very well. They are always available for emergencies and do not limit their work to automobiles (cars and trucks) but have been very helpful on our equipment as well.

Saturday, Donald got the wheel back on the L118 and was able to get out and mow the back yard and the upper half of the front yard. Unfortunately he could not do the lower half as it was too wet and he would have spent more time spinning tires than getting any mowing done.

Right now our priorities are the chickens and getting everything ready for the delivery of the turkeys. The turkeys should be in by mid-May.

The chickens are doing great. They are starting to realize that they are getting put to bed about 7:30 p.m. and are starting to go into the hen house themselves (of course, just when they get used to the time, we will change it). Recently, they have come running out in the morning when their door is opened.

Chickens - First Thing in the Morning

They have quite a bit of room to roam
The weather was beautiful this weekend and we hope to start getting caught up on the farm.

Until next time,

Blessings from Baker Heritage Farms

"And God said, "Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind." Genesis 1:24

Sunday, April 14, 2013


Greetings from Baker Heritage Farms;

Adam and Danielle moved the second and final batch of chickens to their new home yesterday and we made some minor adjustments to the hen house. Now we need to clean and sanitize the brooder tubs for the turkeys due to arrive early next month, as well as get the rock along the base of the fence around their run.

Donald picked up the brush he scattered around on Friday. Tried to burn more of the brush on the rock pile (mound) in front, but it was still too wet.

For a short time there is a little more room in the big barn so we need to get in there and start cleaning it up. Hopefully we will have time to do it.

Weather was beautiful this weekend, unfortunately it also caused that annual illness - spring fever.

Until next time,

Blessings from Baker Heritage Farms

"Then God said, 'Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds'. And it was so." Genesis 1:11

Friday, April 12, 2013


Greetings from Baker Heritage Farms;

While it was stormy with plenty of rain, wind, and even some winter mix, this week, today was sunny and very nice.

Debbie and Donald were out late this morning to start working on our 'Total Farm Makeover' (part of our "ReThinking Baker Heritage Farms" program). Our 'Total Farm Makeover' will include getting the yards in shape, making them look nice for our own piece of mind, and hoping to be able to better maintain them throughout the summer.

Donald started to tackle the "mound" in our front yard. The mound has been there since we moved in. It comes from when Donald and his Dad started clearing the land, was added to when the pad for our home was put in, and further added to when the house was put in. Yes, we have been slowly burning it away, but every year it gets added to. You could consider it a burn pile; however, it is more rock now than brush. Donald wanted to have a "rock party" at the rock pile, but learned quickly that it needed to be burned first ... so he started burning it.

Rock Pile Being Burned
Debbie started picking up rock from the second rock pile we started years ago. It is in a copse of trees by our parking area and makes it difficult to mow around. Danielle, Adam, and Donald eventually joined her and we got most of the rock moved. The rock from this pile, as well as the second pile we all started working on, has been placed around the base of the chicken coop fence.

We also moved the first set of chickens into their new home (there are 13 chickens in each group and two groups for a total of 26 chickens). We are hoping to raise Wyandotte Silver Laced chickens, a heritage breed.

First Batch of Chickens in their New Home
Shortly after relocating the chickens to their new home, Spunky, Debbie's dog and our fence security consultant, found access into the chicken run so we had to make some adjustments. The rock we picked up in the front yard was placed around the base of the chicken coop fence, and Danielle added more hog rings (what we use to secure the fence to the bottom wire) to the fence.

Danielle Adding Hog Rings to the Chicken Fence
Hopefully, the chicken coop is now secure. Tonight will be the real test.

Tomorrow, the second (and last) batch of chickens will be relocated to their new home (joining the others) and the brooders will be cleaned and prepared for the arrival of the Turkeys next month.

Until next time,

Blessings from Baker Heritage Farms

"When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the Lord your God." Leviticus 19:9-10

Monday, April 8, 2013


Greetings from Baker Heritage Farms;

This past weekend was dry and warm, though a bit windy.

Donald did some work around the yard, trimming trees and clearing a walkway around the hen house so that it would be easier to gather eggs. He also started building stands for the chicken waterer and feeders to keep them off the ground.

Plans are to move the chicks to their new home this coming weekend. They will be 6-weeks old and should be ready to be outside (we hope).

Our next priorities include:
  • Moving rock to the base around the turkey run;
  • Tilling plot 3A for peppers and re-tilling plot 2C for tomatoes;
  • Reviewing our current seed inventory to determine what can still be planted and what should wait until either fall or spring 2014 planting.

Other than that, it was a slow day on the farm.

Blessings from Baker Heritage Farms

"In the past 40 years, the United States lost more than a million farmers and ranchers. Many of our farmers are aging. Today, only nine percent of family farm income comes from farming, and more and more of our farmers are looking elsewhere for their primary source of income." Tom Vilsack

Friday, April 5, 2013


Greetings from Baker Heritage Farms

Between spring having arrived and the time change, we now have the opportunity to get out on the farm in the afternoon's and early evening's. And now that the rain has finally stopped (even though it is just a temporary lull), Donald had the chance to get down to the production fields to assess their condition. The assessment - alotawater!

The production fields are essentially under water - except for the knolls, which are wet enough to sink in.

Plot 1D
The cabbage was planted in the north half of this plot (middle of picture between stake and fence). Between the rain right after it was planted, freezing temperatures, and all of the recent rain, we do not think that we will have cabbage this year. That is Headache Creek running through the middle of the plot, and yes, it is full of water.

Plot 1B
Plot 2C

Fortunately, nothing has been planted in plots 1B and 2C (or, for that matter, the south half of plot 1D). While you may not be able to see it, both plots are under water, unfortunately, we are not growing rice.

All plots will need to be tilled again. The pasture is starting to grow back quite well. We will also need to put down more fish meal in those areas where it was put down before, as it has most likely run off now.


Overflow Creek
As you can see, our pond has gone over the edge (of the pond, that is). This is fairly common in normal years, and it gets real slushy around the pond and the numerous creeks running through the property. The bottom picture is Overflow Creek, it is from the pond and runs to a larger creek to the east (left in the picture) of our test garden, which is most likely flooded at the moment (too sloppy to get over there today).

Beautiful country after a rain, but challenging country to be farming in.

This afternoon Donald got outside and was able to put in about three hours of work on the farm. Most of it was getting the chicken coop and henhouse ready. Temporary repairs have been made to the henhouse, their run has has been mowed, and he put more hog rings (these are hog nose rings we use to secure the fence to a wire that runs along the bottom to keep dogs out) along the bottom of the fence. We are having problems with domestic animals that our neighbors down the road neglect and let run wild. We are hoping the extra rings and some other preventive measures we are taking will keep them out of the chicken coop.

Donald also cleaned out the compost bin and started filling with some grass cuttings from last year that were left in the mower, table scrapes that one of our friends so graciously keeps us supplied with, and new grass cuttings and leaves from the chicken coop. The compost bin was donated by one of the ladies in our church adult Sunday School Class (the Seekers).

Compost Bin
You can see that there is a pile of compost to the right of the bin that was left in the bin over the winter. Donald took it out and it looks pretty good. We will most likely use it for our BBQ plantings (Debbie's responsibility).

We will be concentrating on enlarging our compost operations this year. Debbie will be attending a seminar on composting this month as a part of her Beginning Farmers and Ranchers class (Donald attended one last year). The nicest part of this operation is that there is no expense involved. We will be changing what we compost however. We will restrict composting to green items (table and garden scraps, grass clipping, leaves, etc.) to provide more compost in a shorter period of time.

We are not sure what is in store for tomorrow, probably clean up and maintenance around the barn and house. Will not be doing anything in the production fields for awhile, at least until we can get started tilling again.

Blessings to all,

Baker Heritage Farms

"And he said, 'So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground;'" Mark 4:26

Thursday, April 4, 2013


ReThinking Baker Heritage Farms

ReSetting Priorities

The first step in our process of ReThinking Baker Heritage Farms is to re-set our priorities.

One of the issues that was burying us was our efforts to get the farm fully up and running as soon as possible. This was obviously the wrong approach and almost lead to our demise. The best way of ReThinking Baker Heritage Farms is to revisit our Farm Plan.

Last year we drafted a Farm Plan under the guidance of the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture (Beginning Farmers & Ranchers Class). This process included Identifying Short Term (1-5 years), Intermediate (5-10 years), and Long Term (10 plus years) goals. After identifying our goals, we went through a process to prioritize our goals, a process that required us to consider those goals most important for family well-being and business success, short-term goals that will help achieve long-term goals, short-term goals that could conflict with or impede long-term goals, and goals so important that they should be attained even if they prevent reaching other goals. From this process, we established Baker Heritage Farms' top five goals by priority, which included:
  1. Determining the best use of the land while maintaining good stewardship;
  2. Plot development, fencing, and stock housing;
  3. Determining the best produce and stock/poultry for improving health, decreasing expenses, and remaining sustainable and environmentally friendly;
  4. Purchase appropriate seed, seedlings, and stock/poultry; and
  5. Being an integral part of the community through farming and sharing of experiences.
Determining the best use of the land while maintaining good stewardship is an ongoing process. This is the goal that reminds us that, no matter how rough the work gets, we cannot lose sight of this goal by reverting to commercial farming methods (use of insecticides, herbicides, GMO seed, heavy machinery, etc.). To stay on track with this goal, it is important that we set reasonable priorities that allow us to complete the necessary work within an acceptable (and doable) time frame.

We have accomplished a good part of our second goal, plot development, fencing, and stock housing. Unfortunately, the loss of our first flock of turkeys last year can be attributed, in part, to getting in too much of a hurry. While we protected the flock from overhead hazards, we neglected to ensure that the ground level was secure, and neighborhood dogs got in under the fence and killed the entire flock. We ran into the same problem when we built our hen house. While we had rough plans, and did all of the measuring (even measured three times to cut once), we forgot one small detail that has turned out to be a rather large detail, we did not "square" the house. As a result, we have doors that don't open or close easily, and already lost half of the roof (temporarily covered awaiting for better weather to install new roofing). Wasted time and money from being in too much of a hurry to "grow" the farm.

Goal number three, determining the best produce and stock/poultry for improving health, decreasing expenses, and remaining sustainable and environmentally friendly, is another goal that will be ongoing. Based on this goal, we spent several months over the winter preparing our 2013 seed orders, however, twenty-twenty hindsight tells us that we could have done a better job. Rather than working with seed we could get that would meet our requirements (both organic and heirloom), seed that would meet the literal terms of these requirements, and seed that would be less expensive, we based our preparations on  criteria that was not necessarily practical. We prepared our seed order based on what we wanted to grow rather than what we could (and should) grow, forcing us to spend more money and stretch the the requirements to the edge of the envelope. Even our original flock of turkeys did not meet the literal requirements we set (they would have needed to be artificially inseminated), though our current flock of chickens does meet the literal requirements.

Goal number four, purchasing appropriate seed, seedlings, and stock/poultry, has been met as of this moment, only because we stopped purchasing seed when we realized that we would not meet our planting schedule.

We are currently failing to meet our goal of being an integral part of the community through farming and sharing of experiences. As we have been in such a rush to get the farm up and running on a large scale that we have not been able to actively participate in our local community, the farming community, or even in sharing our experiences. This blog is a prime example of our failures. We have not delivered what we have promised, to keep you informed of many aspects of backyard and small acreage farming. We have promised to deliver our costs, and have not yet done so (I promise we will be doing so soon). We have not kept a complete dairy of our work here on the farm.

All in all, while we are on track with our goals, we have failed to keep them in mind on a daily basis. Thus, we are rethinking our priorities.

Our immediate priorities are evident.

First, we have 26 live chickens in our barn that are ready for their new home. Our most immediate priority is to prepare for their transfer to the chicken coop as soon as the weather permits.

Second, we have close to 1,600 pepper seedlings and 200 tomato seedlings that will need to be planted soon, and the plots are not ready. It is imperative that we get these plots prepared as soon as the weather permits so that they can be transplanted in a timely manner, or we will lose the entire crop.

Third, we already have a substantial investment in February seed. Our next priority is to start working the appropriate plots so that we can get these seeds planted. We will be reviewing the seeds on hand to determine if we should wait and do a fall planting (some of the seeds can be spring or fall planted) or go ahead and push to get them planted now. Our decision will most likely be weighted heavily by what the weather does once we have seen to the chickens and the transplants.

Next, we need to stop, look, and listen (no, not for the train, but possibly the train wreck). We need to stop what we are doing, look around and see what needs to be done, and listen to common sense. To do this, we have placed Debbie's homework assignment for the Beginning Ranchers and Farmers Program on high priority. This is the Whole Farm SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) Analysis. This analysis will help us to build on and further develop our strengths, while minimizing the impacts of our weaknesses, if not eliminating them (in other words, slow down and do the job right). This will also allow us to be more responsive to the opportunities and threats our environment offers.

Another area we need to look at is curtailing our expenses. We went overboard in 2012 and the first part of 2013, again, trying to get everything done at once. Prior to our starting our push to get the farm up and running, most work on the property was based on what we could do with little or no expenditure. There is no reason that getting the farm up and running cannot be successful using this same strategy. Our ReThinking Baker Heritage Farms has opened our eyes to what we can do that does not require large expenditures. Restarting our compost operations, which took a back seat to field work and other operations this winter, is a prime example. Composting is probably the most effective and least expensive method of reducing expenses available to the backyard or small acreage farmer.

Another priority will be to get the farm in shape. We have neglected the aesthetics of the farm. Never having been interested in impressing others, we have allowed the farm to vegetate, building up brush piles, leaving work half-done, allowing materials to pile up, and generally becoming disorganized. Guess what, having an aesthetic farm does not mean impressing others, it means having pride in what you are doing, which is hard when you are always seeing things that need to be done (generally small things) and putting them off because you have work to do to make your farm "real", or you are too tired to do the small things because you have been working to make your farm "real". Again, twenty-twenty hindsight actually showed us that, while we were obviously not impressing people with the aesthetics of our farm, we were trying to impress people (or maybe just ourselves) by showing them we were "real" farmers. Another lesson learned - we don't really care what others think, it is what we think that really matters (not to discount others opinions, but rather to do what is right for all).

You will be a part of our resetting our priorities. You will get to be a part of the process. As we rethink our priorities, we will share them here on the blog, and hope that, if those of you who follow us have comments or recommendations, you will feel free to offer them. We want this farm to be a family farm, not only our family, but our farming community family as well.


Donald Baker

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Rethinking Baker Heritage Farms

ReThinking Baker Heritage Farms

I like farming because it gives me quality time to think. While they are mostly good thoughts, sometimes they can be frightening.

Several weeks ago I was out preparing one of the plots for seeding (still have not been able to seed that particular plot) and I was thinking of our farming venture, the time and money we have already invested in the farm. Farming is not easy, it is a lot of work. I was prepared for the work, but as I was working on the plot, I had to wonder if we were taking the right approach.

Our mission is to use sustainable farming methods that respect ecosystems and promotes a livelihood for those that work the land. We believe in following a system that maintains and supports the natural fertility of the soil, promotes diversity of flora and fauna, and adapts to regional conditions, maintaining the natural ecological cycles, conserves energy, and reduces chemical input to a minimum.

Our goals include determining the best use of the land while maintaining good stewardship, gaining knowledge of agricultural principles through education, experimentation, and work experience and passing our experiences on to others with the same desires and goals, and being an integral part of the community. Our immediate goals also included determining the best produce and stock for improving health, decreasing expenses, and remaining sustainable and environmentally friendly.

As I said earlier, I started to think about what we were doing as I prepared the plot for planting. This lead to me wondering why we were doing what we were doing, when it would be so much easier to simply go to the farm store, buy commercial seed, use machines to prepare the land, input chemicals to ensure our crops grow, and obtain seed that pretty much guarantees success (Genetically Modified, with insecticides and pesticides included). How much easier we would have it. Just think, an instant farm.

Then I got to thinking about why we were really farming. It was not for the money, in fact, that is not even in our short term goals. The primary purpose was really to promote the health advantages (for us and others) of naturally grown crops while providing sufficient on-farm income to support our family. We started Baker Heritage Farms to provide healthy and wholesome food products using traditional, non-mechanical equipment in respect of the land we worked.

Yes, buying Hybrid seed that has been genetically modified would provide more assurance of successful growth, and would be easier than trying to find heirloom seeds that are certified organic (as well as substantially less expensive). Using commercial pesticides and insecticides (or even buying seed where these are already imbedded) and commercial fertilizers would further reduce the manpower necessary to maintain our crops until our cover crops become effective. And there is little question that exclusive use of mechanized equipment would make our job much easier and allow us to get the job done quicker. But ...

How would all of that affect our real mission? It would not maintain or support the natural fertility of the soil, nor would it promote diversity of flora and fauna. It would disturb the natural ecological cycle while increasing chemical input substantially. Most of all, we might as well continue to buy our food from the grocery store as it would then be just as healthy (unhealthy?) as what we would be growing.

But how do we get our farm up and running quickly when we find ourselves short of time, low on finances, and just worn out? Then the lightbulb lit up - RETHINK BAKER HERITAGE FARMS!

Once I grasped the concept of rethinking the farm, I quickly realized that it was not the idea that was wrong, it was our approach - we were not following our own plans!

We got greedy. The success of our test garden was the jumping off point of our greed. We learned from the test garden, which was planted late on ground that was not properly prepared, that we could be successful farmers with proper planning and execution of the plan.

We spent a good deal of the winter planning, and as the plan came together, it became evident that we could farm, and, with the help of our faith in the Lord, we could be successful. And then we really started farming. We fenced off our three plus fields and started to prepare the plots.

Having owned several businesses in the past, I knew that a successful business (yes, a farm is a business) needs a plan, funding, and time. The plan is the first, and most important part of any business. Funding is also important, but funding can be controlled with a proper plan. Time is an absolute necessity to be successful, but must also be a part of the plan. We had a plan. We thought we could fund the plan through cash flow. We had the time. We were ready to go. We were going to have a fully operational farm in 2013 ... and then disaster struck.

For the past several months, it seems we suffered one set-back after another, our mental and physical health being challenged with each set-back.

And now, we are suffering what all farmers do, weather. While the rain is a blessing and much needed here in draught country, it is also a curse. It has now rained long enough that I pray the draught is over, but planting will be further delayed until the ground can be worked. In addition, we have poultry that will not wait until things dry out, so we need to concentrate our energy in that direction temporarily. The positive side - historically, weather of this type at this time of the year, in this area, usually means a mild summer (we hope).

In preparing to rethink Baker Heritage Farms I soon realized that we were trying to do to much at one time. In farming, the old saying, "In the business of farming, it is not so important who gets there first as who gets there at all," is very true. So what did we need to do to ensure a viable farming operation - stop, look, and listen, and do it right the first time.

Yes, we are taking the right approach with the farm, and that is why we are Rethinking Baker Heritage Farms.

And we want you to join us for the ride. While having a backyard garden is one thing, small acreage farming is another, and we want to do it right, for you, for us, and for future generations.

I hope to be providing more frequent updates to this blog as we go through the process of reviewing our plans, adjusting our schedule, better controlling finances, and improving management of our time.

Stay tuned for updates. We will even be posting our "To Do" list on the blog so that everyone can see what our priorities are and how well we are meeting them. Please feel free to add your comments, suggestions, and recommendations. This will be a community effort, and hopefully everyone will learn and be a better farmer for it.


Donald Baker

Monday, April 1, 2013


Greetings from Baker Heritage Farms;

A day late (and, as always, a dollar short) but at least we are posting.

Another weekend of rain. It rained most of Saturday and it poured Sunday morning.

No work in the fields again this weekend, but Donald did get some work done on the chicken coop. On Saturday, between the rain drops, he started finishing the gate and was able to complete the job Sunday. In addition to completing the gate, Donald opened up the hen house to get it dried out, and Danielle and Adam helped put a tarp over it to keep it dry. Half of the roof needs replacing as the plywood was bad and separated shortly after it was installed. We have the plywood but need some dry days to get it painted.

The chicks are ready for their new home, but they will have to wait. More rain and colder temperatures are expected later this week.

Half of the Chicks - they are now 31 days old.
On Sunday, Donald, Danielle, and Adam also moved around the seedlings so that we get more uniform growth. We are using a variety of lighting and some are not as warm as the others.

The picture is not great, but the seedlings are doing good.

This week we hope to work together on Debbie's homework for Beginning Farmers & Ranchers class - she needs to complete a S.W.O.T. (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) for the farm, including internal and external factors.

We are also continuing to work on our Farm Food Safety Plan.

Hopefully we will get to prepare and plant some more plots next weekend (maybe).

Blessings from Baker Heritage Farms

"In the business of farming, it's not so important who gets there first as who gets there at all." Rural Wit & Wisdom